Fashion statement

The Australian rugby TV ad running just before a United States football program was laugh-out-loud funny.

A camera focuses on two guys standing side by side, one easily 6 ft., 4 in., the other all of 5 ft., 8 in. Both just wear shorts and cleats. Both put on their game uniforms.

The tall guy looks like a model from one of those cable TV spots, selling exercise machines. Shinguards, kneepads, thigh pads, hip pads, shoulder pads, helmet, pants, and jersey are donned. Result - a fully clad NFL knight ready for battle.

Cut to the short guy. Voice over: "Put your uniform on." He reaches down for a black jersey and pulls it over his head. Only one jersey, and a rugby player is ready to scrum. Point made: Uniforms make the game like clothes make the man.

The Olympics add a Shakespearean twist, echoing Hamlet: "To wear, or not to wear" some type of performance-enhancing gear. We've given you an entire page on the high-tech garb used in Sydney (page 15). When the length of a finger, or nose, or even an expanding chest sucking air, can be the difference between a gold or silver medal, I'm not going to judge if one athlete is better than another based on dress.

Sports attire begs a variation of the question asked in the early 1800s by Thomas Carlyle in "Sartor, Sartoris" (The Tailor Retailored). Change the uniform, do you change the game? The Australian Olympics raise this question: Do high-tech clothes now make the athlete?

I don't drive in the Indy 500. I do benefit by the new technology that makes its way to the auto assembly line from what is learned on the race track. I'll just expect change in sneakers and swimsuits, confident I'll look a lot more like that 5 ft., 8 in. rugby player than the NFL knight.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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